As the battle for Uttar Pradesh converges on the banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency, all eyes are on the seat as it is increasingly seen as the 'bellwether' for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Top BJP leaders and Union ministers have made a beeline to Varanasi towards the fag end of electioneering, making the poll atmosphere highly surcharged.
The saffron party, which is locked in a tight electoral battle with the SP-Congress alliance and the Mayawati-led BSP, hopes that a good performance in the eastern parts of the state will take it past the majority mark in the 403-member state Assembly.
Modi is camping in Varanasi and holding roadshows, the first after such an exercise during the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The Prime Minister almost crossed path with Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and his ally Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, when the latter took out a joint roadshow to garner votes for the alliance. Mayawati, who is eyeing the Muslim voters in eastern
Uttar Pradesh, also made whirlwind tours of various constituencies in the run up to the final phase of the state polls.
The three Naxal-affected districts of Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli, along with the Assembly segments under Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, will be in prime focus in this phase. Tight security has been put in place in these districts.
The counting of votes polled in all the seven phases of the Assembly polls will be taken up on March 11.
A total of 1.41 crore voters, including 64.76 lakh females will exercise their franchise in the last phase. 14,458 polling booths have been set up in this phase.
In the 2012 state Assembly polls, out of these 40 seats, 23 went to SP, 5 to BSP, 4 to BJP, 3 to Congress and 5 to others.
The seven districts going to polls in this phase are Ghazipur, Varanasi, Jaunpur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Bhadoi and Sonebhadra.
In all, 535 candidates, including 40 (BSP), 32 (BJP), 31 (SP), 9 (Congress), 21 (RLD) and 5 (NCP) are in the fray in this phase.
While the maximum number of 24 candidates are from Varanasi Cant seat, the minimum of six candidates are contesting from Kerakat (SC).
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